Evidence and its Evaluation - PHIL6230

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


A controversy is currently raging in philosophy about the nature of evidence. Recent work in epistemology and the philosophy of science suggests new answers to questions such as: What is evidence? What is it to have evidence? Why do beliefs need to be guided by evidence? At the same time, there is a vigorous debate about the methods of evidence-based medicine and evidence-based policy making. Many practitioners regard these methods as fundamentally misguided, while others view them as key to progress in medicine and beyond. This module will bring these two important topics together and show how one line of current research in philosophy is informing the debate about evidence-based methods and vice versa.

In particular, this module will provide an introduction to the methods of evidence-based practice, including the various types of comparative clinical study, and the evidence hierarchy. It will involve applying recent insights from epistemology and the philosophy of science on the theory of evidence to critically appraise the motivation behind this conception of evidence-based practice.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300


Also available to Level 5 students under code PL622

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay (3,000 words) – 80%
Seminar Performance – 20%

Reassessment methods:
This module will be reassessed by 100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

J. Howick (2011) The Philosophy of Evidence-Based Medicine, BMJ Books.
D.A. Gillies (2000). Philosophical Theories of Probability, London: Routledge.
Causality and causal reasoning: Russo and Illari (2014). Causality: Philosophical Theory Meets Scientific Practice, Oxford: OUP.
T. Williamson (2000) Knowledge and Its Limits, Oxford: OUP.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Understand in detail the major positions and arguments in the philosophy of science and epistemology concerning the theory of evidence and its evaluation;
2 Engage critically with some of the central issues in the philosophy of science and epistemology concerning the theory of evidence, and ultimately support a solution to a particular issue, through their study of the relevant arguments;
3 Demonstrate their understanding of the various philosophical theories of evidence and a recognition of the implications of these theories for problems within evidence-based practice, all through their study of relevant arguments;
4 Demonstrate the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of major texts in the philosophy of science and epistemology, and refer to major texts to support their own position.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their skills in analysis and articulating a coherent position;
2 Demonstrate their skills in critical analysis, argument, and supporting a particular position through their engagement with major texts, through discussion with others in seminars;
3 Work well alone and to take responsibility for their own learning;
4 Demonstrate their ability to clarify complex ideas and arguments, to develop their own ideas and arguments, and to express them in writing.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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